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A Nutcracker history - U.S. style?


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#1 BW

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Posted 07 December 2002 - 12:39 PM

Having just read one of the links posted today about Nutcrackers in the San Francisco Bay area...I was rather surprised to read that the SFB's version is "the first and oldest...ever presented in the United States."

To read the article go to: http://www.sfgate.co...07/DD157176.DTL


It may be a Russian ballet, but "Nutcracker" is also an American phenomenon, and there is nothing quite like it in the arts anywhere else in the world...

In truth, all three of the Bay Area's major versions of "Nutcracker" can, on a good night, be just the thing to make fans of newcomers, and to make the most jaded balletomanes fall in love with dance all over again. San Francisco Ballet's, a much revised hybrid by Helgi Tomasson and the Christensen brothers,  
is the big show, and potentially the most touching. It's also the first and oldest "Nutcracker" ever presented in the United States.


Is this writer correct in the pronouncement of United States' Nutcracker history? :eek:

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 December 2002 - 01:22 PM

Yes, it was the first Nutcracker in the US to employ the entire score. The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo had a production that used most of the score, but not all of it. For one thing, from year to year, the first act party scene kept shrinking until it was about five minutes long, and the ballet took up with the battle with the mice and the snow sequence.

And about that snow sequence - America got its first view of it as a pas de deux divertissement number for Anna Pavlova and, I believe, Anatol Obukhov (or was it Vilzak?) as the Snow Queen and Snow King. They had no fast transition to make, so made this pas de deux to use the music. So now we all know where that came from!

#3 BW

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Posted 07 December 2002 - 05:12 PM

Thank you Mel, you font of history both ballet and other! :)

I have seen Balanchine's version several times and have to admit that I'm in love with it. We saw a Russian version last year, out at SUNY Purchase, which we thought was pretty disappointing... and then I used to take my daughter, when she was little, to a performance put on at Purchase by their youth ballet. and dance corps along with a guest dancer or two. So far NYCB's and the Balanchine version that is performed in Stamford, CT with a mixture of SAB, area ballet students and principals from ABT and NYCB are my favorite...however I would love to see this "original".

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 December 2002 - 05:58 PM

The Lew Christiansen production was filmed and then transferred to tape some thirty+ years ago. It wouldn't surprise me to find that the New York Public Library had copies of both media.

Actually, a few things will look familiar to NYCB nutzophiles, because Christiansen talked to Balanchine and Danilova one night, and they showed him what some of the St. Petersburg versions of the dances had been like, even teaching him a few. The connecting link between both the SFB and NYCB versions was the 1940 Ballet Russe version.

#5 Giannina

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Posted 07 December 2002 - 07:36 PM

As a teenager I was a student at SFBallet (a lousy student) and saw several years of rehearsals for Nuts and performances of same. It was pig heaven for a ballet student. Little did I know it was history in the making.

As a side light....Lew Christensen was my favorite ballet teacher of all time.

Giannina

#6 BW

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Posted 08 December 2002 - 05:20 AM

Oh Giannina- I didn't know you'd been at SFB! That must have been where the ballet "bug" bit you! ;)

I envy you, Mel, and all the others here who've had the experience of seeing, and knowing, these ballet icons.

Re the videos, Mel, you know I've walked through the new Performing Arts Library...but have yet to try to ask the librarians to help me with using their new computers, etc., to watch anything - pretty pathetic, eh?


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